Fresh after winning Best Asian Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards, Confessions is released on DVD in the UK. Examining the repercussions of a child’s death, the film ultimately ponders how precious life is.
The premise may sound simple but what director Tetsuya Nakashima creates in Confessions is a multi-layered exploration into the consequences of confessing your inner secrets. After admitting knowing that her daughter’s death was in fact a murder, and that the murderers sit in her very own class, Miss Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) voices an affecting story of admission. Whilst her class may not quite believe her at first, her claims begin to take effect and result in some damning revelations. The guilty parties, never directly named by their teacher, instead being referred to throughout as Student A and B, spiral into two very different introspective soliloquies that make for enthralling viewing.
Narrated throughout, Confessions‘s voice-overs allow for hard-hitting exposés that steadily surmount to an explosive finale. Slow-mo is used extensively throughout the film to great effect, juxtaposing the gravity of the revelations being given by the film’s main characters. The power of Confessions‘s script is matched elegantly by its beautiful cinematography whilst the Brit-based soundtrack (featuring the likes of Radiohead and Mercury Prize winners The XX) adds a suitably depressive tone to the film.
Confessions is a film that snowballs without you realising it, moving as it does from a teacher’s last day to a hypnotising exploration of cause and effect, the children moving from milk cartons to a pubescent lust to effect their world in the space of the film’s hour and a half. Organically shifting from one individual’s absorbing story to the next, Confessions wastes no time on superlative sub-plots. The exposés at the heart of the film are painful both for the protagonist and the viewer, often encouraging empathy for the most unlikely of characters.
Yuko’s pain is possibly the rawest of the entire ensemble and her hatred for Students A and B is refreshingly honest. The vengeance she seeks is vital to the film’s development and her methods are reminiscent of Saw’s Jigsaw; although she wishes the students seek redemption she will nevertheless punish them for their crimes. Remember fellas, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…
The maniacal Student A steals much of the film. The slow discovery of the reasons behind his actions as well as his means of acquiring his mother’s love provide most of the film’s shocks whilst fellow murderer Student B’s steady mental degradation after being told he has possibly contracted HIV is tantalisingly horrifying.
In many ways Confessions could be seen as a comment on technology’s alienating power, but to pigeon-hole the film in such a way would be to completely miss its purpose. While its masterful interweaving of its character’s stories is impressive, it is each character’s confession that provide the film with its power. Masterful and majestic, Confessions is a truly compelling piece of cinema that shouldn’t be missed.
Best line: Either the succinct admission ‘our class is messed up’ or the ironic ‘just kidding’.
Worst realisation: Student A’s phonecall from Yuko.